The American Wizarding School Is in Massachusetts, per J.K. Rowling
The long buildup to the November release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest movie set in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, has meant all kinds of tidbits from Rowling about wizarding in America, since the new movie is set here. First, we learned that Massachusetts played a prominent role in the beginning of American magic. And today, as befits the home to the first university in America, we learned that Ilvermorney, the American Hogwarts, is located on Mount Greylock.
The history of the school is revealed in a new story on Pottermore, Rowling’s site for all things HP. The founding of said august educational institute followed a long and difficult saga, which is perhaps fitting, given the struggles the early settlers faced surviving in Massachusetts. But instead of the disease, bad weather, lack of food, etc., that other early European settlers faced, Isolt Sayre, the Irish founder of Ilvermorny, faced an evil aunt, who was, as are many Potter-verse villains, obsessed with so-called Pureblood witches and wizards, who can claim both parents as magical.
Poor Isolt was forced to flee Ireland to get away from her aunt, whose last name (Gaunt) is familiar to Potter fans as both a descendant of sinister Hogwarts founder Salazar Slytherin, and as the family name of Voldemort. Isolt came to America on the Mayflower in disguise as Elias Story, which is the name of an actual Mayflower passenger who apparently died shortly after coming to America. Or, he disappeared, because he was really a witch undercover.
You can read the whole story on Pottermore, and also get sorted into an American wizarding house, which are named after American magical creatures: the Horned Serpent, the panther Wampus, the Thunderbird, and the Pukwudgie. It seems extremely relevant to note that the author of this post was sorted into the Thunderbird house because of her adventurous spirit.
This isn’t the first time Mount Greylock has played a role in pop culture: As the Boston Globe points out, “Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of ‘The Scarlett Letter,’ set his ‘Ethan Brand — A Chapter from an Abortive Romance’ there (though he wrote it ‘Gray-lock’), about a man who operates a lime kiln on the mountain.” The American school also gets kudos from Rowling for its inclusive spirit, as she points out that “Ilvermorny has the reputation of being one of the most democratic, least elitist of all the great wizarding schools.”
But the most Massachusetts part of all? The Ilvermorny school colors are blue and cranberry, because Isolt’s unmagical, Massachusetts-dwelling husband loved cranberries.